After going on an eight-game winning streak, the Minnesota Wild have been humbled. Losing their last two games in some sort of frustrating referee-influenced way, making it known that the league won’t let you get away with stuff for too long, to simply bring you back to earth. Well, they have a tough one ahead of them.
The Carolina Hurricanes have moved from potential dark horse Stanley Cup candidate, to a certain force that will no doubt remain competitive for the next little while. The hype has subsided, but they are still winning so many damn games. With a 19-7-1 record, the Hurricanes have taken the Metropolitan Division by storm (whomp, whomp) and have solidified themselves as a devastating playoff opponent.
But on the other hand, we should be feeling sorry for them, that they have to face a Wild team coming out of a day off and ready to try to get their winning ways back. Plus, Jonas Brodin has returned to the blue line — sending Jordie Benn back to the press box and the six defensemen that started the season, are back for the first time in what feels like forever.
This solidifying feeling only comes with some more security. The Wild are still at the top of their division, but only with a slightly smaller gap between them and the next team — just four points separate them from the next-best Nashville Predators, and only eight separate them from a spot out of the playoffs. The Wild were riding high on their win streak, but now, just because of a couple slips and trips, they need to look over their shoulder.
Carolina will be missing top center Sebastian Aho and rookie sensation Seth Jarvis due to COVID protocol, but they are getting back Tony DeAngelo and Brett Pesce. It’s a mixed bag of personnel, and they will need to go with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen due to cap restrictions, but they’re flexible enough.
For the Wild, you have to imagine it will look like this:
Kaprizov - Hartman - Zuccarello
Greenway - Eriksson Ek - Foligno
Fiala - Rask - Gaudreau
Duhaime - Sturm - Bjugstad
Brodin - Dumba
Goligoski - Spurgeon
Merrill - Kulikov
Cam Talbot will start.
Will the defensive pairings look like they did?
We were spoiled with riches during Spurgeon’s absence, that guys like Benn and Calen Addison could tentatively step in and try to suppress the loss; and that Kulikov played an increased offensive role, and Merrill looked normal in the top-four. But will we be used to the rag-tag and with this full blue line, expect a little too much solidity?
Will Kaprizov be productive?
It’s no coincidence that Kaprizov was scoring buckets of points during the win streak, and then in the two following losses, just a couple of goose eggs from the star. So, will Kirill score some points even if the result isn’t what we want? Who knows.